One of the most pervasive lies of our day, finding its way into movies everywhere, whether a movie about military combat, or a Marvel comic superhero movie, or a variety of other genres, is the portrayal of women, as strong as men, beating them to a bloody pulp.
There is the constant indoctrination of this insidious lie, and it actually hurts women in real life and affects the men who love them. It has created an allusion that women are just like men in ways that they really aren’t. It has affected how we interact with them, what we come to expect from them, and it impacts your marriage and the way you may view your wife and the way you treat her. I have seen this portrayal in commercials, I have seen it in TV shows, and I have heard it from women themselves!
There is no doubt that women trained in the martial arts for years and years might be fully capable of beating a random guy on the streets. There is no doubt that women can get into good physical condition, run great distances, and be a great athlete. When I first met my wife Kathy, she was running 17 miles a day! I was stunned at her endurance, I was amazed at how strong she was and the things she did to train. I once tried to run with her and as she talked effortlessly as we ran mile after mile, within 20 minutes I was winded and thought I was going to die and had to quit!
The reality of our 40-year marriage has been this fact: Kathy is truly weaker than I am, she has had far more physical health challenges than I have had, and she is just not capable of the same pace of life, the same stresses that I have had to bear during these years. In fact, I have observed all the 5 ladies in my precious family, though all of them, at one time, were physically strong athletic women, and in some ways still are. All of them have had significant and difficult physical health challenges and still do. Add to this the years of childbearing, and the toll that takes on their physical selves, and it takes a toll on their health.
Men, here is a news flash: MEN CAN BE INCREDIBLY DENSE, OBTUSE, AND JUST PLAIN HARSH AND INCONSIDERATE. It comes to us naturally, and it is deadly to our marriages. This is why God tells us in 1 Peter 3:7, “In the same way, you husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with someone physically weaker, since she is a woman.”
I cannot begin to tell you how much I have had to learn and grow in this area in my life. Harshness just comes naturally to me. Being understanding, showing tenderness, and great gentleness does not.
I will never forget Kathy’s first pregnancy. I just had no idea what it meant to live with a pregnant woman. Smells bothered her, I didn’t understand. Getting to close bothered her, I didn’t understand. She was more tired, I didn’t understand. But here is a clear cut example of insensitivity and lack of tender understanding. Kathy and I had taken a job of cooking in a sorority. We had a little apartment below the kitchen for living in and we were just beginning our life together. We were expecting our first child. We got to cook together and be a team, and that was a wonderful thing. It was Feb. of 1980, very close to Kathy’s due date. We had hoped to have a natural birth but found out that our first child was a footling breech. This would mean a c-section, and Kathy was not supposed to go into active labor before we got to the hospital.
One morning Kathy got up and told me she felt she was having some mild contractions. Nothing too bad, just mild. I went upstairs to begin cooking. This happened to also be a day that had a big, live championship fight on TV. I grew up around boxing and loved to watch it, though seldom got the chance. The day went on, and finally, the fight was on. I had the TV going in the kitchen upstairs watching it and Kathy was in the basement apartment. It was about the 3rd round and Kathy came to the bottom of the stairs and called up, “Mark, my contractions are getting stronger.” I shouted back, “Ok, just hold on, I am sure there is nothing to worry about, and the fight is still going on.”
She went back to the room. It was about the 7th round of a 15 round championship fight. Kathy came to the steps again, and this time with a little more pain in her voice said, “Mark, I really need to go to the hospital.” Once again, I tried to minimize it, I still wanted to see the fight. It got quiet, then a few more rounds passed, then I heard her again, at the bottom of the steps, with much pain and exasperation in her voice, “Mark, we need to go now! Right Now!” I knew she meant business and we needed to go, yet I still regretted not getting to see the whole fight! THAT IS OBTUSE!
I am truly ashamed of that situation. I was not thinking of her needs, I was not being a tender, understanding husband. I was being foolish, selfish, insensitive, inconsiderate and harsh. This then became a metaphor to me of how much I needed to grow in becoming the kind of husband God wanted me to be. That I needed to grasp things about my wife, and the makeup of her person, that I had mostly been oblivious to.
I had some very hard lessons to learn. I began to realize my tone of voice could come out very harsh, my words could come out very harsh, my actions could be very insensitive. What I realized most of all, was that I needed to change the way I thought about Kathy. I really needed to be very thoughtful, mindful, and considerate that she was, as my wife, a woman, and as a woman, made by God, she needed special, tender consideration as she really was weaker than I am. In no way unequal or inferior to me. That is not at all what I mean, nor what God means.
I recently met with a dear friend who had been in a terrible, horrific motorcycle accident. He has suffered immensely, and as a result, had to have multiple surgeries, and still suffers greatly to this day. He is one of the strongest and most courageous men I know. Part of his leg had to be amputated, and it is with great difficulty and pain that he walks.
We were going to a meeting together, and as we walked, much more slowly than I am used to walking, I walked side by side with him. Later he told me, “Mark, thanks for walking beside me, most people always walk on up ahead of me and leave me behind.” I was struck by this. I am of course much older and wiser now as this occurred this last year. It hit me, “Lord, how many times has Kathy asked me to slow down, how many times have I had to realize in her frail health I needed to walk beside her more considerately, rather than how I would prefer to walk?”
As I thought about this dear godly man, who has to walk with so much effort and much more slowly that he would want, because of his real physical condition, it hit me again: my wife is like this dear man. My wife has a heart of gold, my wife has a strong, courageous faith, my wife has endured through tremendous pain and suffering and has great faith strength. But, my wife, as a woman, like this dear man who had this terrible accident, is weaker, and it was just natural and obvious for me to be more sensitive, and considerate to him.
Through these many years, I have learned to show Kathy greater honor and understanding. I have learned in a variety of ways to live with her in a way that ministers to her needs in ways that have deep meaning to her, as a woman. Here are a few simple examples:
Many years ago, I began to realize how difficult sleep was for Kathy because of pain from a terrible car accident, and teaching, and training 4 children all day long, and all that’s involved. I like sleeping next to her but I have a few issues that were keeping her awake. I cough a lot, I clear my throat, my sinuses bother me, I toss and turn maybe 20 times a night, wiggling the bed, I get up to go to the bathroom, moving the bed each time. All of this was disrupting her sleep, as she is a very light sleeper. We love each other tremendously, but I realized, “Wow Mark, Kathy really needs good rest. It would work best for her if you slept in a different room.” So that is what I did, for her sake, to live with her in a more understanding way, to be tender and thoughtful to her. This helped her greatly.
I have been given by God a unique amount of energy. I wish honestly I could pour some of it into Kathy. I can’t. What I can do is use that extra energy to thoughtfully and considerately find ways to lighten her burdens, to do things that in many cases a wife or mother might do herself, in order to live in a more understanding way with the unique challenges she faces.
My words, oh how I have prayed over, worked over, and struggled with my mouth! I realized that my words could put wind in her sails, or sink her ship! I am a very expressive person, very passionate person. This must be channeled by God’s spirit, wisdom, and grace, or my words do damage. I learned to be more restrained, I learned at times to shut my mouth, I also learned to find ways to encourage her with my words, to speak and write words of praise and things that gave her life, strength, and encouragement. One great lesson was learning to take the time when it came to a difficult topic, or something we might have argued about, to carefully write it out on paper, reading it back to myself, asking how would this hit me if I read it? Then I would carefully round off the rough edges, take out the emotion that would have been there if had poured it out of my mouth, and learned to share much more respectfully. Then I would print it on paper and put it under her door in the morning to read.
Finally, Men, there is one more critically important reason that you need to learn to live with your wife in an understanding way and treat her with honor. SO THAT GOD WILL ANSWER YOUR PRAYERS!
This is one of the few places in the Bible that ties how we treat someone, to our prayers being hindered. 1 Peter 3:7, “Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective. In this way, you will not stop God from doing what you ask him to do.”
I have observed many a man who thought he was a man of God, who prayed and asked God for things, but his harsh treatment of his wife obstructed the answer to his prayers.
All men have unique personalities and temperaments. Some like myself, express themselves more passionately than others. Some have greater emotion in their voice when they communicate. This does not necessarily mean they are being harsh or insensitive with their wives, or emotionally abusive.